Chapter 20:

Vol 1: Ch 19: Kumichou

Realms of Destiny

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“Welcome back Kumichou!” the Shadow Hand members called in unison as they stood in two neat rows, bowing low as the ‘Kumichou’ returned.Bookmark here

Kurogane merely stood there at the end of the row next to Mejji. He was some way away from the gates but he could see the Kumichou clearly. The Kumichou was a very well-built man, not as old as he had expected. As a matter of fact, he wondered if the man was even as old as Mejji who looked like his second-in-command.Bookmark here

The Shadow Hand leader had jet black hair which he purposefully slicked back behind one ear. He had a massive scar which cut diagonally from left to right across his face, a number of scars can also be seen on his bare chest for he only wore protective wrapping cloth under his own black haori. On his belt there were three very expensive-looking swords, two were wakasashi lodged firmly on his belt and the other an unusually long odachi slung across his back. His forehead was covered by a thick red bandanna but to Kurogane’s surprise, on moving closer, he could see that the leader’s eyes were as red as his.Bookmark here

Kurogane blatantly stared at him for a long while until Mejji noticed this and pushed his head down into a bow in order to not appear disrespectful. Kumichou merely cast the boy a passing disinterested glance and moved on inside. As he walked past Kurogane, he said, “Come see me later Mejji.”Bookmark here

“Yes, Kumichou.” She bowed. As soon as he entered the building the two rows broke ranks and went their separate ways.Bookmark here

“Can you please remove your hand from my head?” asked Kurogane from below.Bookmark here

“Oh, sorry.” Said Mejji. “I got a meetin with da chief so why don’t cha go entertain yaself somewhere? Oi! Kumiko!” she called across to a girl carrying a water pail across the lawn who was about the same age as Kurogane. “Take Shindou here round the place for a bit. I’ll be back in a sec.”Bookmark here

“Yes, Mejji-san.” Said the girl in a soft voice. Her eyes were cast low and she didn’t look anyone in the eye. She put her pail down by the well and hurried over to where they were. “Please follow me Shindou-san.” She said to him without looking him in the face nor coming within two paces of him. Kurogane followed her round the back of the building.Bookmark here

The girl, Kumiko, had straight chin-length hair which covered half of her face she was slightly taller than Kurogane. Reina would’ve stared him in the eyes, grabbed his arm and physically dragged him wherever she pleased, this girl was almost the complete opposite. Though there were bruises all over her body and on her face, he could see that she was very pretty.Bookmark here

“What are you doing here?” asked Kurogane suddenly while they were walking around the massive building.Bookmark here

“I...I’m sorry?” asked the girl, surprised that he was talking to her directly.Bookmark here

“What is a young girl like you doing among all these thieves and gangsters?” asked Kurogane. Though he barely knew her, he could see his old self in this girl, hated and abused.Bookmark here

“Kumichou picked me up from the dumps.” She explained, still not looking straight at him. “I couldn’t fight or be trained as a serving lady, so I wash and clean.”Bookmark here

Kurogane stopped walking. There was something about this girl that annoyed him. The beaten dog that refused to fight back, she’s someone who should’ve learned to fend for herself but never did, it annoyed him big time.Bookmark here

“Please keep walking, w…we’re still some distance from the training halls yet.”
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“When are you gonna start looking at the people you talk to?” he asked her, staying put. “Look at me. Or am I so much of a demon you wouldn’t?”Bookmark here

“Of… of course not! How…why would I think you’re a demon?” she asked, fearing that she’d offended him, bracing herself.Bookmark here

“Well you’ll know if you actually looked wouldn’t you?” Kurogane raised his voice without noticing. Kumiko cowered as he walked closer. He felt even more annoyed now that he had to actually close the personal space between them. It’s usually Rei who does that. “What are you cowering for? I’m not gonna hit you.”Bookmark here

“I…I’m sorry!” she apologized again.Bookmark here

“Is that all you can say?” she cowered, this time almost to the ground. Kurogane backed away and looked at her. He actually pitied her, he had never pitied anyone but himself all his life. He gave a sigh. “Listen, just look at me when you speak. That’s all I ask. You’re the only one around here who’s my age alright? Just thought it would be better if, you know, we were friends.” He couldn’t believe these words were coming out of his mouth. Had he become dependent on Rei and Sousuke?Bookmark here

Before he arrived he had never thought that he would need any friends, everyone was his enemy, and even after he arrived no one else really mattered. Yet now, he is beginning to feel that the lively grey-eyed girl had left an empty void in his heart. He didn’t even say goodbye. He’s making friends, Rei would laugh till her stomach ached. He held out his hand to pull Kumiko up. At first, she was hesitant, then she took his hand and stood up.Bookmark here

“I’m, Fuma Kumiko.” Looking properly at Kurogane for the first time, her eyes widened in surprise as she looked into the red eyes very much like the person who saved her from the dumps, only this boy also had flaming red hair. He almost looked inhuman. She did not expect to see what she saw and, on impulse, backed away in a startle. “I’m sorry, how rude of me.”Bookmark here

“That’s why you should look at people when you talk to them. Now, do you see why I’m a demon?” Kurogane asked with a small smile.Bookmark here

“I don’t think you look like a demon at all! Your eyes, they’re actually very pretty, like a precious stone… ruby red. And your hair, they’re flaming red, it’s unusual but very pretty.” Kumiko was staring him in the face. She then realized that she had probably said too much, she blushed to her ears and turned away again.Bookmark here

Your hair’s a really cool flaming red and your eyes are really pretty, like ruby red. You’re not one bit scary to me. Reina’s words echoed in his head. No matter what he did he couldn’t stop her from entering his mind. He laughed suddenly, which startled poor Kumiko again. “Hahahahahah!”Bookmark here

“D…did I say anything funny?” asked the girl, unsure of what she had done.Bookmark here

“I’m sorry, you just reminded me of someone that’s all. My name is Shindou Kurogane, nice to meet you.” Said Kurogane finally. He walked to the side of the building and sat down on the raised wooden surface. “I don’t really feel like looking around at the moment, why don’t we talk abit? You can tell me about the Shadow Hands from here.” He didn’t know why he was being very talkative to this girl who clearly didn’t want to talk. It could be the kindred spirit he saw in her.Bookmark here

“Shindou-kun, sorry for asking, but…why are you here?” asked Kumiko.
“Mejji-san found me passed out in the middle of the road. I’m on the run, so I don’t really have anywhere else to go.” Realization dawned on Kumiko’s face as she put the pieces together in her head.Bookmark here

“Those blood-soaked clothes were yours!” she exclaimed in shock, one hand over her mouth. Bookmark here

“Are you alright? Are your injuries okay? That was a lot of blood!”Bookmark here

“I’m fine, those weren’t mine.” He said to calm her down. Although, that just reminded him of the deeds he just committed. His expression changed to one of pain-filled regret. The girl noticed this and did not ask further. There was a minute of awkward silence during which neither said anything.Bookmark here

“So uh…tell me about the Shadow Hands?” asked Kurogane, breaking the silence.
“What is with the boy Mejji?” asked the Kumichou, getting straight to the point.Bookmark here

“I found him passed out in the middle of the road Kumichou, apparently the coppers are after him. And uh…”Bookmark here

“We’re not an orphanage.” Said the man, red eyes piercing through Mejji’s sunglasses. “Get rid of him. And stop trying those new hair dyes on other people, only one of you is enough.”Bookmark here

“But the kid’s special Kumichou. That hair, I didn’t do nothin to it.” She walked up closer to him, giving the two bodyguards in the doorway an uncertain look, then looked back at Kumichou. Bookmark here

“Can I have a word with you in private?” The man nodded and gestured the two bodyguards to leave. When Mejji was sure that the doors were closed, she remained close to her chief and said in low tones. “He’s got ya red eyes Kumichou. And uh…” she gave the man’s bandanna a look before saying, “and a gem.”Bookmark here

This got his interest immediately. “Are you sure?” he asked, his eyes narrowed, looking her in the face, his gaze, piercing straight through her glasses.Bookmark here

“Right ere.” She pointed to her chest. “I also took some of his blood and gave em to ma experimental squad. I think it best ya come see for yerself Kumichou.” The head of the Shadow Hands stood up and followed his second-in-command through a trap door behind a set of drawers in his room.Bookmark here

The trap door opened with steps leading underground, the two entered and the electronic lights came on dimly. They followed the long corridor, each footstep echoing from every angle. They have stopped at one of the doors on the side which looked identical to the other doors lining the corridor. Mejji produced a key from her sleeves and opened it.Bookmark here

Within the room were a number of scientists in white haoris, buzzing about in a laboratory which looked nothing like any that belonged to that age and time. The scientists greeted the Kumichou, who gave them a nod. They proceed to the back of the lab towards some glass panes. On the other side of the panes were two akita dogs. However, these were no ordinary akita dogs for they had blood-red eyes and pitch-black fur, their teeth shaper than any living beast, saliva dripping as hackles were raised in a vicious growl. The furs were standing on ends and electricity ran from the tip of one claw to the other.Bookmark here

‘Demonic’ would have been an appropriate word for the dogs behind the glass panes. Blood splatters could be seen in the chamber where the dogs paced, and as the two humans approached, the two dogs went into a rage of frenzy of loud barks and crackling electricity.
“What happened to the other one?” asked Kumichou as he noticed the reduced number of dogs in the chamber.Bookmark here

“This happened.” Said Mejji. She pressed a button on the control panel on their side of the room and a door within the chamber opened. In a flash of red and black one of the lightning demon dogs were thrown to one side of the room, on top of it with its jaws clamped tightly around the poor creature’s neck was another bigger dog.Bookmark here

Kumichou’s eyes widened in surprise as he noted this new creation within his experimental squad. The never before seen creature was no dog. Its skin resembled crackling hot magma, flames lit its extremities, and darkness radiated from the body of this fiend. The jaws were strong and did not loosen as the lightning dog was struggling in vain. Its cage-mate cowering in one corner as the life slowly left the poor dog in its final death throes. With a powerful snap of its jaws, the smaller dog’s neck broke and the monster looked up, through the glass, straight into the red eyes of the Shadow Hand’s Kumichou. He was taken aback by the directness in the gaze of the animal and could feel what he refused to admit was fear, for one split second. The fire demon dog then broke its gaze with him and went to finish off the other lightning dog.Bookmark here

“Was that…?” asked Kumichou as he regained his voice.Bookmark here

“The boy’s blood? Yes.” Said Mejji. “We took it off ‘im when he was passed out for a few days here. An gave em to a lab dog like we did with yer blood. I thought he’d be one of yer kind…” she gave him a sideward glance. She had never seen her Kumichou so shaken before. Though he’s not showing so openly, she could see that he was clearly taken aback by, firstly, the fact that there was another one of his kind around, and secondly, that the blood of this child could create such a monstrosity that made a product of his blood look like helpless puppies.Bookmark here

“That’s not possible.” Said Kumichou. How can there be another Rathnorian here? He asked himself. Crestos Rengend, known in this realm as Murayama Shohei, or ‘Kumichou’ is a Rathnor of Destruction. Though he may have been taking his long sweet time in ensuring destruction to this Reality Realm, he did not expect someone to send another Rathnor down here, and someone so powerful too. Was he taking too long? Has he failed his mission? Was introducing cross-realm technology forbidden? But surely this Realm was about to be destroyed, that was his mission, why does it matter? There is no doubt that this kid that Mejji found is a Rathnor. 
What should he do? Why was this Rathnor here? Many questions were running through his mind at that moment. And how did he find me? “Did the kid say where he came from? And why he’s here?”
“I just found ‘im on da street Kumichou, he hadn’t known of us before he got ‘ere. An he said he had nowhere ta go. With his powers n stuff, I just thought he’d be a good asset ta us. He’s a good kid after all. Just need a bit o trainin, he don’t seem ta know what he’s capable of.” Said Mejji, still unsure of the strange questions being asked by the Kumichou in his panicked state.Bookmark here

“He didn’t ask for me?” asked Shohei.Bookmark here

“He don’t know who yer are, Kumichou.” Said Mejji.Bookmark here

I must stay calm, thought Shohei. She’s right, if the kid doesn’t know that he’s a Rathnor, I may be able to use this to my advantage. Here in this Reality, I can use ‘that’. “Bring the boy to me in an hour, and prepare more lightning dogs. I’m gonna give him a test.”Bookmark here

“But, Kumichou, that’s a bit –“ said Mejji, the poor boy Kurogane wouldn’t stand a chance against those demonic dogs.Bookmark here

“Just do it!” said the Shadow Hand ringleader.Bookmark here

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